When Cultures Collide: Accidental Rudeness & Too Much Touching

Tutting – This is a sound you make with the mouth which is similar to clicking your tongue. In Ireland we use this sound when someone, usually a child, is doing something wrong and bold (naughty) and we want to tell them we disapprove. When a student first used this with me I was shocked. I felt like a child! I later discovered that it’s a way of saying ‘No’ and used when someone is going to correct the information you are saying. I must say I actually really love this one and use it with my students now!

“Yeah, yeah, yeah” and/or Hand Wave – This has been used in a lot of my classes by students in the past. It usually occurs when a student asks for an explanation and then realises that they already know the answer halfway through. I understand that the intention is to communicate that they do not need the explanation but it appears incredibly rude. Besides, sometimes other students have the same questions but are too afraid to ask, so let me finish my explanation!

Greetings with Hugs/Kisses etc. – Affection and physical touch vary greatly from culture to culture. Most of my students have come from backgrounds where they kiss, hug and shake hands every time they see a friend or classmate. If this is not something you are used to because maybe you are from a country where this is not common it can be quite surprising! As an Irish person I know that this took a while to get used to and can be awkward for both people at the start but I have gotten a lot smoother at greeting my more affectionate friends!

Personal Space and Hands Where They Shouldn’t Be – While I have grown accustomed to my foreign friends holding on to me and kisses flying left, right and centre, it always shocks me when I meet someone for the first time, often in a professional capacity, and they touch my leg or sit just a little bit too close or catch my arm when they want to talk to me. To be honest, it’s uncomfortable.

Asking Personal Questions – This one is more specific to the classroom. The amount of times I’ve been asked my age and told “oh that’s very young to be teaching”. A what age is it acceptable to get a full-time job after completing full-time education?!

What about you? Have you experienced any awkward or funny situations like these, either as a teacher or student?

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